Monday, October 5, 2009

Heidi Klum Coming Through Your Basement Door....

No, I'm not freelancing for Playboy, though I'm guessing this title would sell a lot of magazines;-).

I saw Heidi Klum interviewed on television and one of her quotes really struck home as I have decided come what may, I'm starting my business this year.

Heidi Klum is one of the highest paid models in the world. And while she was obviously blessed with beauty, you don't tend to become that successful in any field without a certain amount of self-motivation.

In the interview, she talked briefly about being terrified at her first Victoria's Secret Runway Show. Prior to being hired, she was asked if she had a lot of runway experience. She answered in the affirmative, fudging a bit, and began training at home, practicing and pretending until she did in fact have the ability to "do runway."

Later, when asked about her drive, she's also published a book and now produces her own television show, she responded that she had been in a lot of situations where one person thought she was great for a campaign and another simply said no and she's learned to keep at it, keep going to the person who makes the decisions.

I always believe if you knock on the front door and no one answers, you go to the basement door or climb up a tree and see if you can get in that way.

As she was talking, it occured to me that the same has been true in my life, albeit far from the glamorous field of modeling.

When Greg and I moved to Wisconsin, I sent out my resumes and waited for the teaching jobs to roll in. Not a call, not an email, nada. Then I took the harder step of calling the four schools I was interested in, only to get a terse, "We're not hiring right now, we'll keep your resume on file."

My small town Midwest childhood did not really feed my inner New Yorker very well, but I knew I needed to step it up in the assertiveness department. So I went through about 50 interview questions from various books and polished my "self-commercial." Then I had Greg tape me in a mock interview (they taught us to do this in law school and it is VERY enlightening, though not always easy to watch).

Afterwards, I tracked down the decision makers in the four schools. In two cases they were deans or directors and in two, they were the heads of their departments.

I called (so NOT, NOT, NOT wanting to make those calls) and spoke directly to the person I needed to and asked if I could come in for an "informational interview." I stressed that I understood they were not currently hiring, but eventually they would have openings and it might be helpful to both of us if we got a chance to meet for twenty minutes or so.

All four agreed, a few begrudgingly, and I came with my dog and pony show and in two of the cases, walked out of the room with a job, and in the other two, was hired within about a month.

In one situation, I was told there were no law classes at the moment, but did I feel qualified to teach a Labor Relations Class? I was honest that it was not my first area of expertise (a massive understatement), but that I would give it my all and do a good job with the class. I got the okay and then went home sweating bullets as I looked through the materials. SO out of my area.

I got on the phone and contacted a lawyer who fights unions and got him to agree to come into class to talk about the issues he faces regularly. After that, I went through the yellow pages, contacted a union, and got a union representative to agree to come in and talk about union issues from that point of view. And I worked, and studied, and read, and found current events in the field through Google searches and all in all, it was a good class.

Now I'm getting ready to start the first steps of my own company and need to channel my inner Heidi Klum. An oft quoted figure is that 50 percent of businesses fail their first year. So as we start this October to October challenge, those of you starting a new business with me, remember that if no one answers the front door, or the basement door, you may need to be prepared to climb that tree. So get your ladders ready, and we will do it!



  1. Good for you! I think you will be very successful!

  2. Thanks so much Frances! Any plans for a new business venture at your end? Eileen